Bullying has become a tidal wave of epic proportions. Although bullying was once considered a rite of passage, parents, educators, and community leaders now see bullying as a devastating form of abuse that can have long-term effects on youthful victims, robbing them of self-esteem, isolating them from their peers, causing them to drop out of school, and even prompting health problems and suicide.
A recent study by the Family and Work Institute reported that one-third of youth are bullied at least once a month, while others say six out of 10 American teens witness bullying at least once a day. Witnessing bullying can be harmful, too, as it may make the witness feel helpless - or that he or she is the next target.
Children who are bullied are often singled out because of a perceived difference between them and others, whether because of appearance (size, weight, or clothes), intellect, or, increasingly, ethnic or religious affiliation and sexual orientation. And bullying can be a gateway behavior, teaching the perpetrator that threats and aggression are acceptable even in adulthood. In one study by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, nearly 60 percent of boys whom researchers classified as bullies in grades six to nine were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24, while 40 percent had three or more convictions.